FROM HOME, Texas – Mike McCarthy just can't catch a break.
First, COVID-19 prevents McCarthy from taking advantage of the NFL's rule giving a team's new head coach a week's head start on opening the offseason program.
Then, with COVID-19 ramping up, McCarthy is denied those mandatory minicamps, all 10 OTA sessions and the ability to actually meet in-person with his 90-man roster for the first time in the offseason.
Then COVID-19 eliminates the Cowboys participating in the Pro Football Hall of Fame preseason game, one the Cowboys held their hands high in the air to volunteer for to give McCarthy and his staff an extra preseason game to implement his program and further evaluate his players, not to mention an extra week of training camp.
Then COVID-19 reduces the normal four-preseason game schedule to two, then to one and now the NFL Players Association is telling the players it's none.
Then COVID-19 protocols, with reporting players having to test negative twice in a four-day span before entering team facilities, McCarthy will likely have to wait until the first week in August to gather together his entire team for the first time, with quite possibly 10 fewer players if rosters are reduced for safety purposes from the normal 90-man limit to 80.
And again, quite possibly, with the proposed 21-day strength and conditioning demand from the NFLPA, McCarthy would have only 10 padded practices during this novel training camp before ramping up preparation for the first regular-season game against the Rams in their new stadium (Sept. 13) the week of Sept. 6.
To think, the guy waited 20 whole months for the opportunity once again to lead an NFL team onto the field for a season opener. And now all this.
Probably will need to stand on his tippy-toes to peek over this gigantic 8-Boulder standing in his way.
What were the odds back that first week in January for him, and here it is July 22 and still coming up with shots working From Home.
- Westward No: Today, Wednesday, July 22, 2020, we should have been boarding the Cowboys' team charter flight to LAX, then the 90-minute, escorted by CHIPS, bus ride up the Pacific Coast Highway to Oxnard, Calif., and out of this 95 to 100-degree heat here to the start of training camp with tonight's temperature out in Oxnard expected to be 59 degrees.
- Instead: The Cowboys are busy preparing The Star, Ford Center and the lone grass outdoor practice field for the start of training camp From Home. Sideline tents are going up around the grass and artificial turf practice fields to provide some semblance of outdoor comfort from the soaring temperatures once practice begins. Though, from what we hear, if the Cowboys are holding the main one of the two allowed practice sessions outdoors, those will start when my old summer factory days between semesters in college began with the 7 a.m. whistle blowing. Timecards needed to be punched ay 6:59 a.m. sharp.
- Imagine This: On Friday, July 17, the NFL and NFLPA distributed to players what was called Introduction to COVID-19 Policies and Procedures, a short video and 31-page PDF, outlining everything being put in place from A-Z. Pretty extensive. But on Sunday, players started Tweeting out their concerns and frustrations about health and safety. Wonder if anyone did any reading over the weekend. About the only thing not covered was "money." Like, what happens to paychecks if the season is shortened or canceled, and what about opt-outs for medical or family concerns? Still hasn't been outlined as of late Wednesday afternoon. Wrote this at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
- Guess What: At 4:35 p.m., a report came out on CNBC Business News that the NFL and NFLPA are still at odds over one big issue after a day-long negotiation session: MONEY. The NFLPA wants NFL owners to pay players their entire season's salary, no matter how many games are played. The owners are holding steady on prorated payments, paying players for the number of games played, knowing there is a good chance games will be played without fans in the stands or greatly reduced capacity. Remember, this was the danger I pointed out previously of Dak Prescott playing under the franchise tag, receiving his $31.4 million in weekly prorated payments, and so what if the NFL season gets reduced to, say, 12 games. Suddenly, that long-term offer with a $50 million signing bonus looks rather sweet. And now we have the root of previous player discontent.
- Travel Restrictions: Talk about some tight protocols for team travel to away games. Start with just this: All players and staff must ride team-sanctioned buses to the team charter plane site at just 50-percent capacity with an empty seat next to each player. Same empty-seat arrangement on the plane, although that is standard operating procedures for the most part. Then, get a load of some of this, aside from the testing that will go on the day prior to departure and day of the game, each player must have his own room. No roomies. Players will be prohibited from leaving the hotel and will not be allowed non-club visitors to their rooms. Hotel restaurants will be off-limits unless totally reserved for team-only personnel. Players can order room service or no-contact food delivery to their rooms. Face coverings must be worn while on the road. And even for home games, all players must spend the night before in the team hotel, as usual, and also must ride team-sanctioned transportation to and from the stadium.
- Going Deep: Now, for what this is worth, and compiled by the NFL's Next Gen Stats crew, using convoluted mathematical equations, the No. 1 NFL quarterback in 2019 throwing the deep ball was … (drumroll) uh, Dak Prescott. This is on passes of at least 20 yards, using completion percentage above expectation, which is the difference between a quarterback's actual completion percentage and expected completion percentage – so a lot of conjecture. Dak finished with a QB rating of 109.7, six touchdowns to two interceptions, with the majority of his completions going to Amari Cooper (12 for 386 yards and two touchdowns). Second was Russell Wilson and third was Patrick Mahomes. Hey, I didn't come up with these stats.
- Shorter Shots: All fans, if permitted to attend NFL games, even on limited capacity, will be required to wear face coverings in the stadium, as deemed by the NFL. Hopefully the NFL mandate is more restrictive than what I saw at this past Sunday's televised NASCAR event in Fort Worth, where fans were required to wear face coverings to enter the stands but were liberally seen not covered up while watching the race … The NFLPA website initially reported 95 players had previously tested positive for COVID-19, but reduced that calculation to 59 the next day, stating the previous total had included team staff members … BTW, the Cowboys' NFLPA player rep this year is fourth-year tight end Blake Jarwin … And saw this coming, 11-year defensive lineman Michael Bennett says he's retiring, after playing nine games with the Cowboys this past season, with three Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl title to his ledger … Air-safety high-five to long-time former Cowboys assistant coach Mike Zimmer, reportedly near finalizing a long-term contract extension to avoid lame-duck coaching status in Minnesota on what would have been the final year of his current contract.
Lastly, Happy Birthday to Ezekiel Elliott, turned all of 25 on July 22. Here is hoping however he celebrates, he's wearing a birthday mask.